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A recent Journal Sentinel watchdog article highlighted one of the many problems with how residents qualify for financial assistance. This article revealed how landlords and the self employed can receive state aid based on the honor system. In essence, we’re talking about receiving thousands of tax payer dollars without being verified that economic assistance is even needed.
A few quotes from the article sum up the situation quite nicely:
"The problem is fairly simple: Local and state regulators fail to verify actual income when applicants report that they make no money or are self-employed."
"There is no cap on assets to be eligible for most public assistance programs. Recipients can own millions' worth of real estate. But they are required to disclose income from those properties."
"As a matter of policy, they don't check."
This lack of accountability leads to high incidents of fraud and waste. One person is no big deal, but when discussing millions and millions of people, the totals add up alarmingly fast. Truthfully, the entire entitlement system needs an overhaul. Of course, to find ways to eliminate fraud and truly help those that are in need, accusations of racism, sexism, and any other "ism" that works will be used. The false rhetoric will make the connection that fixing the system and eliminating wasteful fraud means that we hate the poor.
The fact of the matter is that in modern day America, poor isn’t what poor used to be. I know because I was poor growing up. When working on a farm, I saw my father put in 80-hour weeks without a day off and take us to the grocery store to occasionally use food stamps. These food stamps were a temporary measure to supplement our existing resources.
I remember the looks we got and I remember the feeling I had while checking out at the grocery store. Today, there is no stigma attached to needing help to feed one’s family. As a result, there is little to no incentive to rise above public assistance. This is why the program numbers are exploding and people have begun to treat this entitlement as a right. The program known as SNAP gives a great example of a temporary system turning into a government right. Heck, the first word in SNAP is supplemental. That means in addition to one’s current resources. This temporary program has proven to be rife with fraud and has failed to help Americans rise up out poverty. In fact, it’s become a permanent condition.
I have an idea to solve this out of control entitlement system. We’ve learned that most citizens don’t seem to have a problem losing their privacy. Since they have nothing to hide, they willingly invite the NSA to track their internet usage, emails, telephone calls and anything else the government feels is important. It’s based on this line of reason that I think we should expand that thought process.
First, let’s cut the entitlement spending across the board by 20% to help fund a special enforcement group. We’ll use the 20% savings to hire agents who specialize in fraud prevention. These agents will closely look at each household and ascertain the true need of each family. Using Social Security numbers, credit reports, household activity, credit card and debit card purchases, an accurate picture of required assistance will be determined.
Social Security and credit reports will give a true indication of all income a household receives. If Grandpa is getting Social Security and a pension, this will show up. If little Billy’s ADD causes the family to receive financial benefits, it’s added in. This solution would automatically eliminate the entire problem addressed in the landlord and self employment loophole article. If the family has an income source, it will be detected through the intricate use of government sponsored resources.
Household activity is my personal favorite. If a residence is receiving financial assistance, things like cable television, smartphones and vacations will be verified and eliminated as options. This $50 or $100 in disposable income per month can be used to help the family instead of asking the taxpayers to foot the bill. The special enforcement group can help each household go line by line through the household’s activity to help identify waste and redundancies. Of course, all of this household activity can be tracked through credit card and debit card purchases. Since privacy isn’t important any longer in America, data such as cell phone records, emails, utility records and passports can all be used to paint an exact picture of a family’s true financial need. At last, all entitlements can be cross checked and verified. Thank goodness for a lack of privacy!
I can hear the calls of racism and selective targeting beginning already. Lucky for me, most Americans also don’t seem to care about government agencies (like the IRS) selectively targeting certain groups of citizens.
Regardless of the liberal hypocrisy that this very scenario points out, I am going to take away the incentive for racial targeting.
All agents will work on a commission basis and they get to keep a little bit of what they find. Nothing eliminates personal feelings and animosity like the almighty dollar. The members of this task force will be allowed a specific commission on all aid found to be erroneous, unjust or redundant.
You can imagine how many times over this agency will pay for itself, in addition to the small 20% investment we made at the beginning of this exercise. It will be a tough job and there will be tears. The idea isn’t to take away something people have earned or need, like social security, but rather to take away things people haven’t earned or don’t truly need. The idea is to separate needs versus wants.
Of course, we can continue to do nothing. We can continue to not verify aid is actually needed and keep paying for the entire blossoming system by borrowing money from another country. We can continue to operate temporary assistance programs that are neither temporary nor provide a solution to the problem.
Out of all options, this seems the most preposterous, yet appears to be the direction we are headed as a country.
John Mumper is married with two young daughters. He was born in Wisconsin and grew up on various types of farms throughout the state. John was educated at UW-Whitewater with degrees in Political Science and History and has traveled extensively throughout the world.
Today, he works closely with various types and sizes of manufacturers and building products suppliers as an outside salesman. In his spare time, he enjoys the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers, politics and brewing his own powerful beers.